For 11 months my family and I have lived in the ICU woods. We will return to our home in New Jersey in mid-June. It has been a wonderful experience, and we have interacted with so many kind and generous people at ICU and in the surrounding community. We will miss living at ICU, and are extremely grateful to everyone for welcoming us.
I had three overarching goals for this past year.
- Deepen my relationships with members of the ICU administration, faculty, staff and student body.
- Develop my knowledge about how ICU functions.
- Raise awareness of JICUF within the ICU community.
I was able to make good progress on each of these goals. While it is difficult to summarize the experience, I would like to share several highlights from the year.
Interactions with ICU students
JICUF supports ICU students in three main ways. First, we provide need and merit-based scholarships to students. Second, we provide funding to students through the Student Activities and Student Travel Funds. Third, we run the Global Link New York, Global China and Global Link Philippines programs. Given our physical distance from ICU, we mostly interact with students online and during short business trips to Japan. In contrast, over this year I was able to interact regularly with students on campus. I met with students during my regular office hours, gave guest lectures, ran a grant writing workshop, visited classes to make announcements about JICUF programs, and counseled students on their JICUF-funded projects, as well as their academic, study abroad and career plans. My family and I were also fortunate to host meals for students at our campus home.
Regular interaction became more limited after the outbreak of the global pandemic. However, even during the last several months I have been able to interact with students via Zoom and have also gone on socially-distant walks with students who have remained on campus. We even recently hosted Muslim students for a socially-distant Eid al-Fitr BBQ.
Collaboration with ICU faculty
JICUF works with ICU faculty in a variety of ways. Through the Faculty Program Grants, JICUF provides funding to faculty for projects that are aligned with ICU’s mission. We also support faculty-led international experiential learning programs, and faculty members are integral in the success of our scholarship programs. One of the highlights of this year has been working closely with members of the faculty. Examples include taking part in the JICUF Undergraduate Research Day organized by Professor Seunghun Lee, hosting the Rethinking Peace book launch with Professors Jeremiah Alberg and Giorgio Shani, and working closely with Professor Osamu Arakaki on the Syrian Scholars Initiative. Recently, I have worked with Professors Tomiko Yamaguchi and Ryosuke Fujinuma on how we can further utilize on-campus farming as a community development tool within the Musashino area, and how we can integrate farming within ICU’s liberal arts curriculum.
Enhancing ties with ICU alumni
Another highlight from this year has been the chance to develop closer connections with ICU alumni. I met many alumni in the Tokyo area, and hosted several alumni on campus. One alum that I hosted was Dr. Yasuyuki Horie, for whom it was the first visit to ICU since his graduation in 1961. In the fall, I was invited to speak at a meeting of the ICU Alumni Association and at a reunion of the ICU class of 1957, which was ICU’s first graduating class. I also attended an alumni shinnenkai in January.
Developing a strong relationship with the new ICU administration
This year was marked by the transition of leadership from former President Junko Hibiya to current President Shoichiro Iwakiri. Living at ICU during the transition gave me an opportunity to develop a positive working relationship with President Iwakiri and his administration. This became even more important with the outbreak of the global pandemic, and has led to JICUF providing two special grants to ICU. The first is to support ICU’s Zoom contract and the second is to provide lead support for ICU’s Emergency COVID-19 Fund, which will support grants to ICU students impacted financially by the pandemic. Leading up to my departure in June, I have also held regular meetings with President Iwakiri and his colleagues to discuss the multipronged relationship between JICUF and ICU.
Falling further in love with the ICU campus
The ICU campus is a unique natural treasure. There is a wildness at ICU that is in deep contrast to the sprawling Tokyo metropolis. While we have faced challenges with raccoons, tanuki, snakes, geji geji, centipedes, spiders and a plethora of insects, living in the ICU woods has been amazing.
The experience of this year reminds me of lessons I learned from reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which are also lessons that I believe are intimately tied to the liberal arts education that is embraced at ICU. I would like to end with two quotes from Walden.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”